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2020: Jan-March

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Propaganda fines...

High Court confirms Ofcom's fines for RT

Link Here28th March 2020
A High Court justice has dismissed a Russian Today complaint that a massive £200,000 fine imposed by Ofcom last year was disproportionate. The court endorsed the TV censor's decision to fine RT for a breach of its impartiality rules.

RT had issued legal complains that Ofcom's decisions were a disproportionate interference with RT's right to freedom of expression and said other stations had received smaller fines for more serious breaches.

Following an investigation in 2018, Ofcom found that RT had broken TV impartiality rules in seven programmes discussing the Salisbury nerve agent attacks. Ofcom said RT had failed to give due weight to a wide range of voices on a matter of major political controversy.

RT has yet to respond to the ruling.



Unpublished censorship rules...

Ofcom censures Channel 5 for broadcasting The Sex Business before the 11 O'clock watershed

Link Here24th March 2020

The Sex Business: Me and My Sex Doll
The Sex Business: OAPs on the Game
The Sex Business: Teens Selling Sex

17 June 2019, 22:00,
18 June 2019, 22:00 and
19 June 2019, 22:00

The Sex Business is an observational documentary series on Channel 5 investigating people's sexual choices.

Ofcom received 44 complaints about the third series1 of The Sex Business

The programmes included interviews with: (i) sex workers and images of real sexual activity between the sex workers and their clients; (ii) adults who participate in pornographic films and images of real sex acts; and (iii) people working in the sex doll industry and images of real sexual activity between adults and sex dolls. In summary, the complainants considered that the sexual activity shown in these episodes was unsuitable for broadcast on Channel 5 at 22:00.

Ofcom considered:

  • Rule 2.3: “In applying generally accepted standards broadcasters must ensure that
    material which may cause offence is justified by the context”; and

  • Rule 1.19: “Broadcasters must ensure that material broadcast after the watershed, … which contains images and/or language of a strong or explicit sexual nature, but is not ‘adult sex material’ [as defined in Rule 1.184…], is justified by the context”.

Ofcom's decision: Breach of rules 2.3 and 1.19

Ofcom considered that the content featured in the three episodes and detailed in the Introduction was of a strong and explicit sexual nature. Channel 5 also accepted the programmes contained challenging material. The programmes featured real (not simulated) sex acts, including: oral sex, sex with sex dolls and between sex workers and clients, anal sex and masturbation. In addition, the episodes included images of female genitals, erect penises and anal areas as well as sexually explicit language.

Ofcom considered that this was strong sexual content that had the clear potential to cause offence. We therefore went on to consider whether the broadcast of this content was justified by the context

Ofcom considered Channel 5's representations, that very careful consideration was given to the footage to be included in the series and the way in which it should be included. The Licensee said that the more extreme footage obtained was not included in the episodes. In addition, it said that blurring and other devices, such as footage shot at a distance, had been used to minimise offence. However, in Ofcom's view, none of the images were shot at a sufficient distance or angle so as to limit their graphic nature. In addition, the images were not adequately masked with blurring and genital and anal areas and ejaculate were clearly visible. In some cases, no masking was applied at all, resulting in close-up images of female genital areas and erect penises. Furthermore, some of the footage included was filmed by the sex workers or contributors as they were engaged in sexual acts. In Ofcom's view this resulted in clear close-up point of view images showing the actual penetration of the male genitals into the sex dolls and a sex worker performing oral sex on a client's erect penis.

Given the strength of the graphic sexual content broadcast in this series, Ofcom disagreed that scheduling at 22:00 was necessarily appropriate for the broadcast of such strong sexual material, particularly on a freely available public service channel. Ofcom's research Attitudes towards sexual material on television showed that stronger sexual material became more acceptable after 22:00 but especially after 23:00. This indicates that the more explicit the sexual material is, the greater requirement there is for careful contextualisation, which may include later scheduling.

In Ofcom's view the sexual images and language in this documentary were of a very strong sexual nature. The insufficient masking of the images and the inclusion of close-up and mid-range shots resulted in this sexual content being of a graphic and explicit nature. Some of the more graphic images, such as the ejaculate and oral masturbation of an erect penis, were also shown twice within the episode. Although the documentary genre provided editorial justification for the broadcast of sexual material, this was strong and explicit sexual material, broadcast on a public service channel without mandatory restricted access. Ofcom therefore concluded that these episodes were likely to have exceeded the expectations of the audience at this time, even for an observational documentary dealing with sexual themes with a serious and observational editorial purpose. Therefore, viewers were likely to have considered that this stronger sexual material required the strongest contextual justification and broadcasting the series later in the schedule after 23:00 could have helped to provide such justification.

Our Decision is therefore that the offensive content in these programmes exceeded generally accepted standards and was not justified by the context, in breach of Rule 2.3.

It was Ofcom's view that by scheduling strong sexual material at 22:00, Channel 5 had not ensured appropriate protection was provided to under-eighteens and had not reduced the likelihood of children viewing content that was unsuitable for them. For the reasons above, it is therefore Ofcom's Decision that the content also breached Rule 1.19

In light of the previous breaches relating to the second series, and our Decision in this case of breaches of Rules 1.19 and 2.3 in this third series, Ofcom intends to request that Channel 5 attends a meeting to discuss its compliance approach to the scheduling of sexually explicit content



Presumably wary of the possibility of bad press about internet censorship...

Ofcom director claims that Ofcom aren't out to censor the press

Link Here 28th February 2020




Too sexy by day and too sexy by night...

TV censor Ofcom gets arsey with the babe channel Studio 66

Link Here25th February 2020
Full story: Babe Channels...Ofcom have it in for free to air babe channels

Studio 66
Various times, day and night

Studio 66 TV is interactive daytime chat advertising broadcast on the service Studio 66, which is available as part of a standard satellite subscription package. The content consists of presenters inviting viewers to contact them via premium rate telephony services (PRS). Studio 66 is available without mandatory restricted access and is situated in the adult section of electronic programme guides ('EPGs').

Ofcom received eight complaints, each about a different broadcast. In six of the cases, the complainants considered that the presenters were dressed inappropriately and were behaving in a sexualised manner. In two cases, the complainants considered that the behaviour of the presenters was inappropriate for broadcast.

Example Pre-watershed content
27 August 2019, 10:43
• The presenter’s nipple protruded through the top of her dress for approximately 20 seconds.
The presenter also pulled her dress over her hips, gyrated and stroked her buttocks.

Example Post watershed content
13 August 2019, 21:15
• The presenter exposed and stroked her breasts for approximately 45 seconds, and
subsequently exposed her buttocks towards the camera.

Ofcom considered pre-watershed BCAP rule 32.3:

“Relevant timing restrictions must be applied to advertisements that, through their content, might harm or distress children of particular ages or that are otherwise unsuitable for them”.

Ofcom considered post-watershed BCAP rule 4.2:

“Advertisements must not cause serious or widespread offence against generally accepted moral, social or cultural standards”.

Ofcom Decision: Breach of rules 32.3 and 4.2

Ofcom's published guidance on the advertising of PRS chat services specifically states that when broadcasting daytime chat broadcasters should:

  • ensure that presenters are wearing appropriate clothing, that adequately covers their bodies, in particular their breasts, genital areas and buttocks; and

  • not broadcast images of presenters touching or stroking their bodies in a suggestive manner, in particular avoiding breasts, thighs, crotches and buttocks.

In addition, the guidance makes clear that shots of bare breasts should not be broadcast before 22:00

Ofcom considered that the content across the six daytime broadcasts and that broadcast at 21:15 on 13 August 2019 did not reflect the elements of the Chat Service Guidance listed above. It featured presenters who were positioned and dressed in such a way that resulted in significant exposure of their buttocks, thighs or breasts.

Therefore, our decision is that the seven broadcasts breached Rule 32.3 of the BCAP Code.

Rule 4.2 of the BCAP Code requires that advertisements must not cause “serious or widespread offence against generally accepted moral, social or cultural standards”.

Ofcom has made clear in a number of published decisions the type of material that is unsuitable to be broadcast in ‘adult chat’ advertising content which is available without mandatory restricted access. Our published guidance specifically states that Licensee’s must “at no time broadcast images of any real or simulated sex acts”.

The content broadcast on 15 September included a presenter simulating sex acts. In Ofcom’s view, this material was clearly capable of causing offence.

Ofcom's decision is that this broadcast was in breach of Rule 4.2 of the BCAP Code.

On 7 October 2019, in Issue 388 of Ofcom's Broadcast and On Demand Bulletin, Ofcom recorded a breach of Rule 32.3 of the BCAP Code against the Licensee for the pre-watershed broadcast of material featuring five presenters who behaved inappropriately and were inadequately dressed. This followed on from a previous decision published on 8 April 2019, in Issue 376 of its Broadcast and On Demand Bulletin, where Ofcom recorded a similar breach of Rule 32.3.

The previous breach decisions against the Licensee published in April and October 2019 are the subject of ongoing sanctions proceedings. In all circumstances, we regard the breaches set out in this decision as serious and will also consider them for sanction.

Update: Closed

9th March 2020.

Presumably in response to the censure by Ofcom, Stiudio 66 has closed and terminated its broadcasting licence.



A poisoned chalice...

Ofcom fines talkSport for bias on a George Galloway programme about the Salisbury poisonings

Link Here17th February 2020

Ofcom has imposed a £75,000 fine on Talksport Ltd in relation to its service Talk Radio for failing to comply with our broadcasting rules, and required the service to broadcast a summary of our findings.

Between 16 March and 6 August 2018, Talk Radio broadcast three episodes of the George Galloway programme dealing with the following issues: the poisoning of Yulia and Sergei Skripal in Salisbury on 4 March 2018, and allegations of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party.

In Ofcom's Decisions published on 28 January and 25 March 2019 in issue 371 and issue 375 of the Broadcast and On Demand Bulletin, Ofcom found that each of the three programmes failed to maintain due impartiality and had breached Rules 5.11 and 5.12 of the Broadcasting Code.

Ofcom has also imposed a £20,000 fine on Baltic Media Alliance Limited in relation to its service NTV Mir Baltic for failing to comply with our broadcasting rules. The broadcaster must also broadcast a summary of our findings on the channel.

On 2 April 2018, Baltic Media Alliance Limited broadcast a news programme, Today, which included a discussion about the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury on 4 March 2018.

In Ofcom's Decision published on 11 February 2019 in issue 372 of the Broadcast and On Demand Bulletin, Ofcom found that the programme failed to maintain due impartiality and had breached Rules 5.1, 5.11 and 5.12 of the Ofcom Broadcasting Code.



A new chief internet and TV censor...

Ofcom appoints Melanie Dawes as its new CEO

Link Here13th February 2020
The Ofcom Board has announced the appointment of Dame Melanie Dawes as Chief Executive.

Dawes has been Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government since 2015. She will take up her new position in early March.

Dawes has held senior roles across the Civil Service, working in partnership across the public and private sectors. She started her career as an economist and spent 15 years at the Treasury, including as Europe Director. She was Director General of the Economic and Domestic Affairs Secretariat at the Cabinet Office between 2011 and 2015, and prior to that she served on the Board of HMRC as Head of Business Tax.

In addition to her current Permanent Secretary role, Dame Melanie chairs the Civil Service People Board, leading workforce strategies across all government departments. She is also Civil Service champion for diversity and inclusion.



Crime commissioners...

National Pig Association complains to Ofcom about Channel 4 programme that incited pig theft

Link Here1st February 2020
The National Pig Association has submitted a formal complaint to Ofcom regarding the Channel 4 programme How to Steal Pigs and Influence People .

The group said that because of the programme , Channel 4 could be considered complicit in the theft of pigs. The NPA found it astonishing that it showed 23-year-old pignapper Wesley Omar stealing five pigs on separate occasions. The complaint letter says:

Wesley already has a criminal conviction for theft of a pig from a previous incursion which was reported in the programme, so the production company were clearly aware of his record.

NPA believes that Channel 4 has acted incredibly irresponsibly in this instance and should therefore be held accountable in some way. At the very least, they should furnish the police with information concerning any criminal activity gathered during the course of the programme production.

The NPA goes on to say that the programme - particularly the title and the promotion before the broadcast - explicitly glamorises illegal activity.

Therefore, we would be grateful if Ofcom would consider whether it has breached Rule 3.1 of the Broadcasting Code (material likely to encourage or incite the commission of crime or to lead to disorder must not be included in television or radio services or BBC ODPS).

Update: 370 complaints

5th February 2020. See article from

More than 370 people have complained to Ofcom over Channel 4's recent programme How to Steal Pigs and Influence People.

The TV censor, who says the controversial programme is still under investigation, has received hundreds of complaints.

The National Pig Association (NPA) submitted a formal complaint last week, saying Channel 4 could be considered complicit in the theft of pigs.



Censor play...

Ofcom whinges at unexplicit pretend sex on a babe channel after midnight

Link Here30th January 2020
Full story: Babe Channels...Ofcom have it in for free to air babe channels

Meet the Babes, 18 July 2019 00:30

Babecall is interactive adult chat advertising broadcast on the service Meet the Babes, which is available as part of a standard satellite subscription package. The content consists of presenters inviting viewers to contact them via premium rate telephony services (PRS).

Meet the Babes is available without mandatory restricted access and is situated in the adult section of electronic programme guides ('EPGs'). The licence for the service is held by Escape Channel Limited.

Ofcom received a complaint about physical interaction between a presenter and a member of the production team. The presenter -- who was nude apart from ankle boots and red bra-style lingerie which provided no cover over her breasts -- was positioned on all fours side-on to the camera and appeared to touch her genital area on several occasions during the broadcast. At 00:12:40 the presenter removed the red lingerie.

A section of dialogue was followed by several shots of a partially obscured man (the producer), positioned behind the presenter. Only the man's clothed arm and chest were visible intermittently. Over a period of eight minutes the man stroked and lightly slapped the presenter's buttocks. During this eight-minute period the presenter appeared to simulate that she was engaging in sexual acts with the producer who was positioned behind her and, briefly, in front of her, as she knelt in front of him.

Ofcom considered BCAP Rule 4.2:

Advertisements must not cause serious or widespread offence against generally accepted moral, social or cultural standards.

Ofcom decision: Breach of BCAP rule 4.2

Ofcom's published guidance on the advertising of PRS adult chat services (the Chat Service Guidance) sets out what Ofcom considers to be acceptable to broadcast on these services post-watershed. The Guidance states that licensees should: at no time broadcast images of any real or simulated sex acts; take particular care if two or more presenters appear together on-screen. If there is any contact between the presenters of an erotic or sexual nature (for example kissing, stroking or contact between thighs, breasts or genital areas) or any miming or simulation of a sexual act performed by one presenter on another, in Ofcom's view there is a high risk of causing serious or widespread offence against generally accepted standards; and at no time broadcast anal, labial or genital areas or broadcast images of presenters touching their genital or anal areas either with their hand or an object.

In this case, while the producer was not a presenter, in Ofcom's view the female presenter clearly intended viewers to think that she was taking part in sexual acts with a partner. This was reinforced by the presenter's statement before the physical interaction occurred. Further, the presenter was nude and positioned on all fours, side-on to the camera with the producer behind her. The Licensee disputed the strength of the physical contact between the presenter and producer and considered that it considered the material complied with requirements of BCAP Rule 4.2. In our view the contact was clearly intended to be sexual in nature given the other relevant factors, in particular: the presenter's preceding statements to camera, the position of the producer behind the nude presenter and the reaction of the presenter once the producer joined her on set (i.e. thrusting and rocking) to imply interaction of a sexual nature

Our Decision is that this material was in breach of BCAP Code Rule 4.2



But Farage will have the last laugh on 31st January...

Ofcom will not pursue complaints about Jo Brand's caustic joke about throwing battery acid at Nigel Farage

Link Here29th January 2020

In an episode of the comedy programme Heresy , broadcast on BBC Radio 4, the comedian Jo Brand made comments about milkshakes being thrown at politicians, suggesting battery acid could be used instead.

The BBC assessed complaints it received under the BBC First process that the comments were highly offensive and likely to incite violence. The BBC upheld the complaints about offence, but not those about incitement.

Ofcom then received six complaints which had completed the BBC First process. We carefully assessed these complaints against the Broadcasting Code, taking into account the broadcaster’s and the audience’s rights to freedom of expression without undue interference.

We concluded that Ms Brand’s comments had clear potential to offend listeners. However, we considered a range of contextual factors, including the likely audience expectations of this well-known comedian, and long-running comedy programme, which aims to challenge generally accepted ideas through satire. We also took into account that Ms Brand immediately qualified her comments, making it clear they should not be taken seriously or acted on. For these and other reasons set out below, we have concluded that the complaints do not warrant further investigation by Ofcom.

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